Thank A Teacher This Week!

This is Teacher Appreciation Week, and this week, more than ever, we should all be thinking about all the teachers who have influenced us in a positive way.

Most of them, anyway!
Most of them, anyway!

I’ve posted here before about some of my favorite teachers, and those facts haven’t changed.  I still think of Mrs. Harrod, Mrs. Endris, and Dr. Jenkinson with all the loving feelings in the world.  They let a smallish, nerdy girl feel important, and if you’ve ever been a smallish, nerdy girl, you’ll know how wonderful that is.  And how rare.  (If you were a smallish, nerdy boy, you’ll know, too.)  No matter what kind of kid you were, you’ll know.  In fact, this applies to students of any age.  Teenage and adult students like to feel appreciated, too.

Steve Spangler understands this.  All of the products and all of the freebies and all of the experiments are made and meant to open worlds of wonder for all kids.  For all adults, too – nobody is ever too old to like to blow things up and learn the why and wherefore of the universe.  (Bonus points if you know why that expression is redundant.)

If you’re wondering about a gift for your favorite teacher, or your child’s teacher, look no further than Steve Spangler’s website, because our Gift Certificate will solve all your gift-giving problems.  I’m a teacher, and I’ll tell you the truth:  Teachers love gift certificates or gift cards.  After a single year in the classroom, a teacher will have collected enough mugs, candles, figurines, ornaments, and picture frames to start a gift shop.  Gift cards/certificates solve YOUR dilemma and give a teacher the chance to buy something he/she really wants or needs.

The best Teacher Appreciation gift possible!

Be sure to include a personal note with the certificate/card.  A personal remembrance is the most precious gift any teacher could ever receive.

Plagiarism, Compassion, and the Dinner Table

Plagiarism.  Compassion for plagiarism?  It was his third strike for the same offense.  Last Wednesday morning, after class,  I had to play “Plagiaristic Confrontation” again, and it was no fun. It’s never fun. All throughout my career, I’ve listened to teachers brag and purr about ‘bringing a student down,’ and I’ve sat there shaking my head in amazement, wondering what kind of people were in charge of classrooms these days. “Bringing a student down” was never a goal of mine; I am frankly horrified that anyone would do so happily, and that anyone could gloat about it afterwards. I always thought that one of my functions was to help students UP, not bring them down and brag about it to others who sat there applauding.

plagiarism

Maybe I’m just an old softy (although there are those who would argue that point!!) but I just can not even imagine being happy about a student who was in trouble. Even when that trouble was the student’s own choice and fault, I’m still sorry, not gleeful. I might think things like, “Well, too bad, but life is full of choices and choices bring consequences, etc. etc.” but I couldn’t clap my hands and laugh because someone who is supposed to be the adult in charge gets off on bringing someone who is SUPPOSED to need help, down.

I might cry, but I wouldn’t laugh.

compassion, kindness

Wednesday, in the hallway after class, talking to that student, reminding him about all the previous reminders, explaining the consequences of his choice to him, watching him wilt and lean against the wall and then cover his face with his hands and weep, did something to me that day. It made me want to write a post about younger students, and how we as the adults who are in charge need to do everything in our power to help them attain the skills they so desperately need in order to care for themselves and others as they grow up; we need to help our children appreciate culture so they might understand music and art and allow them to enrich and soothe their souls and give them something positive to do with leisure time; we need to help our children learn and understand everything we can possibly expose them to in the short amount of time they are entrusted to us; we need to show them how to figure things out all by themselves, and to appreciate those things that have no explanation at all, and to help them see that these are often the coolest things of all. We need to teach them compassion by demonstrating compassion; even more importantly, we need to teach them about empathy.

Empathy goes further than mere sympathy.  Sympathy feels for someone; empathy feels WITH someone.
Empathy goes further than mere sympathy. Sympathy feels for someone; empathy feels WITH someone.

THIS is the job of the parent-school team. Not drilling for ISTEP, not months of reviewing so a school will look good on paper and get more money, not sitting for seven hours in a classroom  for thirty minutes of enchantment and a list of vocabulary words, not going over the same stuff again and again and again because two kids still can’t do it, not hanging posters that say “Zero Tolerance” all over a school that publicly advertises its refusal to give second chances. . . . .

Here at Spangler Science, we want our students to learn.  We want them to learn science.  We want them to love to learn science.  We want them to love to learn science and apply it to the world.  We want our students to be so excited about science that they overflow with enthusiasm at the dinner table.  Science helps students understand that just because an attempt doesn’t work the first time they try it, that doesn’t mean it won’t work the next time.  And the next.  Persistence.  This applies to all of life, and getting their hands dirty with trying is a wonderful memory booster.

We make science fun!
We make science fun!

Good schools are not all about more money. You can throw money into a pigpen all day, and the pigs won’t care. Good schools are all about education. Education has been defined as “A change in behavior.” I want to qualify that statement by saying that to me, education is a POSITIVE change in behavior. And if we have to do a little tweaking to get the students’ attention, then so be it. And if we have to do a little strong -arming to get some parents to cooperate, well, so be that, too. Let the tweaking and strong-arming begin.

William Glasser

We must help our children learn, that they might become educated, that perhaps the behavior of the entire world might change..

If we do these things, then our children will never have to stand out in the hall with me, faces crumpled in horror, leaning against the wall and weeping because of the consequences of their own actions.

And I won’t have to go home and do the same.

Drinking Problems

Steve Spangler, the Master Teacher himself, has admitted that most plants have a drinking problem, so I thought I’d see for myself if that was true.

I started out with four clear vases.  I didn’t have any two that were alike, but that just makes my experiment more interesting.

No two alike!
                      No two alike!

Since I would be dealing with fresh flowers, my next step was logical: I filled each vase with some full-blown Water Jelly Marbles.  I also got out the food coloring.

I never use fresh flowers without jelly marbles.  And sometimes, food coloring.
I never use fresh flowers without jelly marbles. And sometimes, food                                                                     coloring.

Next I filled each vase with water, and then put a few drops of food coloring in each vase.  This resulted in some interested formations.

It's beautiful, isn't it.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it.

Then, I got my sharpest kitchen knife and cut a diagonal piece off the end of each flower stem.  Steve likes to give each flower a split end and let it share two vases, but I thought I would try it another way and see what happened.    Each of my flowers got its own vase.

Aren't they pretty?  You should try this!
Aren’t they pretty? You should try                                this!

The big vase got two flowers, but the three smaller vases each got one flower.  Would the size of the vase influence which flower “changed” first?  We’ll see.

Each of my four vases got a different color: yellow, blue, red, and purple.  I wondered which color would show up first. . . .

I put all of this together on Sunday afternoon.  Today is Tuesday.  Look at which color showed up first!

The little vase with the blue water won!
The little vase with the blue water                                          won!

What exactly happened here?  It’s interesting!  (All science is interesting.)  We can compare the way flowers suck water up their stem to the tips of their petals with YOU, sucking soda up your straw into your mouth.  To quote Steve Spangler:

“Okay, now it’s time to get technical. There are two things that combine to move water through plants — transpiration and cohesion. Water evaporating from the leaves, buds, and petals (transpiration) pulls water up the stem of the plant. This works in the same way as sucking on a straw. Water that evaporates from the leaves “pulls” other water behind it up to fill the space left by the evaporating water, but instead of your mouth providing the suction (as with a straw) the movement is due to evaporating water. This can happen because water sticks to itself (called water cohesion) and because the tubes in the plant stem are very small (in a part of the plant called the xylem). This process is called capillary action.”

So much of science is also beauty.  Fresh flowers in the home add beauty and fragrance, and using them to do a little science adds to the enjoyment, especially when there are children in the home.

This is a science experiment that the whole family can enjoy.  It’s simple and pretty and inexpensive, and the science fair judges would be very impressed.

Now I can hardly wait to check on my flowers tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.  If one day can show results, what will three days show?  I’ll update this post for you so you can all see what I’ll be seeing in my dining room.

 

The Magic of Dandelions and Children

It is a sad fact, sometimes, that when a thing is common and we see it everywhere, we take it for granted.   When there are too many of pretty much anything, we tend to take them for granted and consider them less than first class.

Our overcrowded classrooms are the most extreme example of this that I can think of.  It’s easy to look at that classroom and overlook the fact that it is full of individuals each of which is unique and wonderfully made and equally worthy of time and attention.  It’s a lot easier just to say that there are too many students in there and that we need to get rid of some of them and keep only the ones that meet our specifications and preferences.

On a less serious note, I’ve never understood why people will pay out the wazoo for lovely nursery-bred flowers to plant and then pay out the wazoo again for someone to kill the lovely golden blossoms that are already growing.

The blossoms are lovely, and sprinkled over the lawn like stars in the night sky. . . .
The blossoms are lovely, and sprinkled over the lawn like stars in the night sky. . . .

Is it because dandelions are so common, and grow so easily, that we take them for granted and prefer flowers that really aren’t all that much prettier but which are harder to grow, expensive, and a bit less common?  If dandelions weren’t sprinkled everywhere, turning plain green lawns into starry universes, common, easy, beloved by children, would they be more popular?

If we examine each individual child  flower, we will see that it is wondrously made, unique, adds to the quality of the universe, and is worthy of cultivation and attention.

How could any florist’s creation rival the paper cup with a few short-stemmed dandelions stuffed into it?

I think this is absolutely beautiful.
I think this is absolutely beautiful.

How could any expensive centerpiece be more wonderful than a cereal bowl full of floating dandelion blossoms?

These were on almost every surface in the house when the kids were little.
These were on almost every surface in the house when the kids were little.

Even after “death,” dandelions are awesome.  Those white fuzzy “clocks” will tell a child the time, according to the number of breaths it takes to blow all the fuzz away.  FAIRIES love to ride on the soft, fluffy achenes, granting wishes right and left.  Every child knows – at least the children who are privileged to have dandelions at their fingertips – that if they can blow ALL the achenes off with one breath, the wish will come true.

This is a dandelion clock.
This is a dandelion clock.

How sad, to be a child without dandelions on the lawn, to have nothing but plain green landscaping that he can’t even play on because of all the chemicals. . . to have nothing near his home except expensive blossoms he’s forbidden to pick.  How sad the house containing children but no paper cups of short-stemmed dandelions all over the table and countertops.  My heart breaks over the thought of children living in a house where blowing dandelion clocks is forbidden lest the seeds take root and ruin the “look.”  No wishes or fairies dare come near such a domicile.  There’s a big difference between a house and a home, and to people like me, who believe firmly in fairies, wishes, and stubby little bouquets in paper cups and cereal bowls, a house has a green, chemically-treated velvety lawn, and a home has grass, sprinkled with tiny golden stars.  And, if the children are especially lucky, lots of little purple violets as well.

Little purple violets in the grass. . . .
Little purple violets in the grass. . . .

I believe that dandelions are flowers, in the same way that those expensive hybrid roses are flowers, and every bit as beautiful, especially when they’re thrust in our faces by a grubby little child to be put in a paper cup and placed where everybody can see and admire them.

The medicinal, culinary, and other practical uses of dandelions cannot be denied, either, but that’s a topic for another time.

Dandelions represent summer, and childhood, and the love of a little girl or boy for a parent, and a Dixie cup of stubby dandelions means more to me than anything delivered by a florist’s truck.  When I see a lawn sprinkled with dandelions, I see a home peopled by parents who believe a little child’s wishes are more important than a velvety lawn sprayed with chemicals.

Put that paper cup of stubby dandelions on the coffee table between two cereal bowls full of floating violets and dandelion heads and House Beautiful can go blow.  I prefer the individual touch when it come to home decor.

I also welcome the fairies.  So should you.  Heaven knows we all need all the wishes we can get.

Don't deny your kids the privilege of making wishes on dandelion clocks.  It's more important than a green lawn.
Don’t deny your kids the privilege of making wishes on dandelion clocks. It’s more important than a green lawn.

What’s that?  A lawn full of dandelions and violets would attract too many bees, and you’re afraid of bees?

Sissy.

Will Wheaton Anti-Bullying Message is Right On

This video is a few years old, but we thought it needed to be shared. Again. Wil Wheaton was in Denver at Comic Con and was asked if he was bullied as a child and what he did to deal. The question came from a young girl in the audience. His anti-bullying message was spot on.

Wil Wheaton at Denver Comic Con 2013 From CGPhotogcom

When a person makes fun of you or when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. It’s about them feeling sad,” Wheaton explains.

Every parent and every child should watch this video. When we all understand where bullying comes from and how to defeat it, maybe then it will disappear from our culture.

There’s 50,000 people here this weekend who went through the exact same thing and we are all doing really well.

“Don’t you ever let a person make you feel bad because you love something that they decided was only for nerds,” he ended with. “Your loving things for you.”